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Fiji Time: 6:21 AM on Sunday 20 April

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Sea fright

Avinesh Gopal And Dawn Gibson
Sunday, December 15, 2013

IT was a frightening experience for many passengers on a vessel when they woke up yesterday morning.

Some reportedly started crying while others were trembling from what they had experienced.

After leaving Savusavu at 11pm on Friday, the passengers on board the MV Suilven had a safe journey until they got closer to Suva at about 6am yesterday.

Loretta Whippy, 43, of Savusavu, told The Sunday Times from on board the vessel that passengers could see Suva Point from out at sea when the vessel started turning in circles.

"We were outside the Suva Bay when the vessel just kept circling and circling out in the open sea. It must have circled about six times and the passengers were very frightened," she said.

"No one told us what was happening and I then went down and asked a crew member, who told me that the steering wheel had locked. He told me they were trying to fix the problem and if they can't, then only will they seek assistance from the navy. But they managed to fix it after a few hours.

"My 10-year old son who is with me on board got very frightened when the vessel started circling and he was crying."

Ms Whippy said the vessel was supposed to berth in Suva at about 10am yesterday but what they encountered at sea caused the delay.

She said the vessel was not full of passengers but there was a lot of cargo on board.

"The crew has managed to fix the problem and we are travelling at a very, very slow speed now towards Suva and it will take us a few hours to get there," she told this newspaper at about 2:15pm yesterday.

The new owner of MV Suilven is Venu Shipping. Owner Ben Naidu could not be reached for comments yesterday despite numerous calls to his mobile phone. The Sunday Times team also visited Narain Jetty in an attempt to talk to Mr Naidu but some people cleaning the vessel said he had left.

A call made to the Venu Shipping office also to contact Mr Naidu was unsuccessful as a woman who answered the phone said the office had closed for business.

Further attempts to contact Mr Naidu on his mobile phone and landline before this edition went to press last night proved futile.

When contacted last evening, Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji CEO, Neale Slack said he was in a series of meetings and was not in a position to comment on the matter then.